By Gair Rhydd Sport
Ireland will be looking to continue their scintillating form from last year and come into this year’s Six Nations as favourites to retain their title.
What makes this year’s Six Nations most interesting is the fact that the World Cup is looming just around the corner. Japan 2019 will be in the mind of players and coaches throughout the Six Nations and it may just have an impact on decisions made during the championship.
The intensity and competitive nature of the Six Nations is unrivalled in any other rugby union competition and supporters across all of the six nations should be treated to another tournament full of entertainment.
Ahead of a tournament that is on the eve of a World Cup, it might well be impossible to give an accurate prediction of the final standings by March 16.
However, Gair Rhydd’s Sports Editors have given it their best go…
Reece Chambers – Wales
The fixture schedule always play a key part in the Six Nations and my eyes were immediately drawn to the final match day in Cardiff where Wales host Ireland. Both sides will be hoping that the meeting will hold significance after a long and gruelling campaign.
For me, Italy (6th) and France (5th) can be ruled out of any potential for success purely based on their inconsistencies. Scotland (4th), meanwhile, have a favourable set of fixtures. They have three home games against Italy, Wales and Ireland at Murrayfield which could prove key to their six nations chances.
England (3rd) have tough trips to Dublin and Cardiff where their campaign will be decided. A win in Cardiff could well put a cat amongst the pigeons as Eddie Jones will hope to upset the Welsh fans once again.
I am hoping match day five in Cardiff will live up to its potential. Ireland (2nd) should be tipped as favourites considering past form but the Six Nations has an uncanny knack of throwing up the unexpected and that’s why I’m backing Warren Gatland’s Wales to finish 1st in this year’s Six Nations.
Rosie Foley – Ireland
For this upcoming Six Nations, I believe Ireland will retain their title and become three-time Six Nation Champions. With winning all their games last year and only losing to Scotland in 2017, this year I think that the toughest games will be from the home nations. England will finish second as they look to redeem themselves from last year’s sad Six Nations campaign.
However, Wales may challenge that second spot as they are in good form. I believe if Scotland could bring the spark they had when beating England last year to this year’s tournament they could compete. Although both Wales and Scotland are suffering from a mass of injuries. France will challenge all teams with their quick play whereas it seems Italy are bound to be bottom.
John Jones – Ireland
Though I always tend to back an underdog, I just cannot see Ireland slipping up, and certainly would not be surprised to see them emerging from the tournament with another Grand Slam. Like Joe Schmidt, Wales’ Warren Gatland is also due to step down after this year’s World Cup, and I would expect his side to launch a title challenge in the hope of securing his fourth Six Nations victory as coach.
Elsewhere, a Scottish Calcutta Cup victory will frustrate England’s title ambitions, whilst France simply lack venom with the absence of Teddy Thomas, and Italy look unlikely to move out of their increasingly traditional position at the foot of the table.
George Willoughby – England
My prediction for this year’s Six Nations is an England win. If you would have asked me that a few months ago, then my answer would have been very different. But Eddie Jones has got his side playing some great rugby just in time for the tournament. In the recent Internationals, England recorded impressive victories over Australia and South Africa, as well as just falling short against the All Blacks in controversial fashion.
The fitness of Owen Farrell is a slight concern given the status of his thumb injury, but this England team is blessed with terrific squad depth, and whoever was to step up as Farrell’s replacement, I’m confident would do a fantastic job.
Jack Vavasour – Ireland
It seems impossible to see anyone beating Ireland in Dublin, however, they must travel to both Murrayfield and the Principality. As well, Scotland appear unbeatable at home, yet if anyone is to end their outstanding run then it would be Ireland. Wales’ form is impressive, however, is also overrated, this Six Nations will really test them, if they beat France away from home then they are in the mix for a successful championship. Scotland are notoriously bad away from home, and will struggle to beat England at Twickenham.
I can’t see anyone toppling the Irish, however, England will stage a good challenge with a powerful squad. Wales, Scotland and France will scrap for the next three places with Italy comfortably adding to their wooden spoon collection.